Federal laws dictate what personal information about you can – and can’t – be included in your credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Here’s a rundown of what to expect.
Personal Information – Make Sure It’s Letter Perfect
The top part of your credit report contains a condensed set of personal facts about you – the totality of which is extremely important in establishing your unique identity.
The first, and perhaps most obvious, piece of information here will be your legal name. Make sure that it is spelled properly, and that goes for your first name, last name, as well as your middle name, if it’s listed. Moreover, if only your middle initial is listed, ensure that it is correct too. The critical aspect concerning your name is that you don’t want to get your identity confused with someone else – especially if you happen to have a somewhat common name, such as Mary Johnson. You also want to avoid being mistaken for another family member. An example of how this might occur is if a father and son share the same name, and live in the same city, or perhaps even the same home. The father might be named Gerald Livingston, Sr. and his son might be named Gerald Livingston, Jr. In such a case, one person might have squeaky clean credit and the other one might be a credit catastrophe. Needless to say, you don’t want your credit reputation potentially tarred by someone else’s bad credit. (And even if you’re the one with bad credit, and a relative has good credit, you still don’t want to be mistaken for that person).
Obviously, your full name alone isn’t sufficient to verify your identity and help distinguish you from someone else. That’s why other personal information is located in the first part of your credit report, including: your date of birth, other names you have used (such as your maiden name), your current address, previous addresses, home telephone number, and your place of employment. Some reports also include the last four digits of your social security number and the name of your spouse (if you’re married). Review the dates shown on your report which indicate how long you have lived at your current residence, and how long you have worked at your present employer. Correct any mistakes by updating this data with the credit bureaus. While changing this information will not impact your credit rating or your credit score, it does send a message to potential creditors and others about how “stable” you’ve been – which is important when you’re applying for credit or any loans.
The Names Contained In Your Credit Files – Is That Really You?
If you have ever legally changed your name, after marriage, divorce, or for any other reason, you are likely to see multiple names listed in your credit file. Additionally, let me warn you that it is not uncommon to see a variety of spellings of your name. I’m always shocked when I see my updated credit files because there is invariably a ridiculous number of “aliases” contained in my report. (Believe it or not, in the past, some credit reports have actually used that sinister-sounding phrase: “aliases”). These days, if multiple names are listed in your credit files, your credit report will typically include phrases or statements such as: “Names” “Other Names,” or “Also Known As,” and then it will list other names associated with you.
True story: my most recent Experian report has my name listed perfectly. It is spelled: Lynnette Khalfani-Cox. That same report, however, also lists 17 other versions of my name; some have one “n” in Lynnette, some include only my middle initial; others spell out my entire middle name; others leave off the hyphen in my last name; some drop Khalfani; it goes on and on. I have joked to my husband that with so many “aliases,” I must look like a criminal or the run or something!
To minimize potential misidentification problems, I’ve disputed wrong names. And so should you. I also request that credit bureaus delete name variations in my credit file when the spelling of my name gets especially ridiculous – like the time I was identified in my TransUnion report as “Ynette Khalfani.” Nevertheless, I’ve come to accept that, at least in my case, there will probably always be some spelling errors or multiple names listed, mainly because creditors are listing them incorrectly. This is unfortunate and it shouldn’t be the case. But it happens all too often.
The Type of Information That Is Not In Your Credit Reports
While you will find a host of personal information detailed in your credit files, there are certain types of information about you that is not contained in your credit reports. None of the following data will be noted in any of your credit files:
- Your checking, savings or investment accounts
- Your credit score (though companies can sell you this information separately)
- Your divorce records, if any
- Your ethnic background or race
- Your gender
- Your income
- Your medical history
- Your political affiliation
- Your religion
Some of this information is omitted because federal laws prohibit the data from being noted in your credit files. Other information is not contained in your credit report because it has no bearing on your credit rating, and is not predictive of your ability to handle debt. One final bit of personal information that may be included in your credit report is data about criminal records. Potential employers, creditors and others who see your credit files can find out about any arrests or criminal convictions in your past. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, arrest records must be removed from your credit files after seven years. However, criminal convictions may be noted indefinitely in your credit reports.